New York state nursing homes must now comply with a new law that requires nursing homes to meet minimum staffing levels after Governor Kathy Hochul lifted a three-month recess on Friday.
Hochul initially delayed implementing the mandates, citing industry staffing issues compounded by the omicron variant.
The state’s more than 600 nursing homes are required by law to provide 3.5 hours of care per resident per day. Of the 3.5 hours, no less than 2.2 hours of care must be provided by a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or nursing assistant. At least 1.1 hours of care must be provided by a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN).
The law states that 70% of a nursing home’s income must be spent on direct resident care and at least 40% on staffing. It also states that state nursing home operators are required to return all profits over 5% to the state, regardless of the quality of care or whether the operator has suffered losses during the years. previous years.
The law was first introduced by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2021 as a way to improve care home transparency and hold bad actors accountable.
The mandate comes at a time when the Biden administration has set its sights on minimal federal staffing in nursing homes.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should conduct a study to determine the level and type of staff needed and propose a new federal standard within a year, the agency confirmed in a March 10 call with stakeholders.
Governor Hochul’s decision drew mixed reactions from labor unions and industry trade groups.
Even before the law took effect, of the state’s 611 nursing homes, 383 (63%) were considered less than 3.5 hours a day resident.
That’s according to a report compiled by professional services firm CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA) as part of a partnership with the NYS Health Facilities Association.
To meet the new staffing needs, an additional 5,610 employees would be needed for the New York facilities, according to the report.
Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, said the laws do not reflect the current reality of New York’s long-term care landscape, calling them “unworkable.”
“The only solution to the workforce crisis, which will not be solved today, tomorrow, in a month, or six months for that matter, is a partnership between the administration, the legislator, the service providers and workers working together to put in place real initiatives that will help recruit and retain workers,” Hanse told Skilled Nursing News.
The CLA report found that this would cost between $250,000 and $1.6 million in annual costs per facility, which is less than the newly imposed staffing requirements.
Hanse told SNN that many facilities have limited or stopped admissions due to the staffing crisis, which has noticeably slowed discharges from hospitals.
“We have heard directly from hospitals about their frustration at not being able to discharge people who are not ready to return to the community,” he said.
On Friday, the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union and consumer advocates expressed their gratitude to Hochul for enforcing the minimums.
Milly Silva, the union’s executive vice-president, said nursing home management must find effective ways to retain their workers, which will result in better recruitment.
“If employers really invest and agree that they will do everything they can to retain these hired workers, they will not lose them,” she said during a virtual press conference on Friday. “That means you have to deal with wage issues, benefits issues, working conditions issues and what it means to have a safe working environment for carers.”
Helen Schaub, the union’s policy and legislative director, said at the virtual press conference that the health department will look at payroll-based journal (PBJ) data to make sure nursing homes are following the laws.
Fines for noncompliance could be up to $2,000 a day, she said.
In a statement provided to Skilled Nursing News, the state Department of Health said, “At this time, nursing homes should appropriately document their efforts to comply with the law. Mitigating factors can be taken into account [d]department when assessing penalties for non-compliance at a later date.